Marine biologists report outbreak of Portuguese Man-o-War

An outbreak of Portuguese Man-o-War jellyfish around the Maldives has sent guests at many of the country’s upmarket resorts out of the water and back to their villas.

The creatures, which can give a nasty sting, have been reported appearing in lagoons and housereefs around islands in atolls including North Male Atoll, Baa Atoll, North Ari Atoll and Gaaf Dhaal Atoll.

Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru reported a brief outbreak, while Huvafen Fushi in North Male Atoll has had the creatures washing up on the beach for eight days. Kuramathi in North Ari Atoll has also been affected.

Marine biologist Verena Wiesbauer Ali said seasonal outbreaks were not unusual. The creatures were not native to the Maldives reef ecosystem but swarms of them could become trapped by the reef and end up on the beach, she said.

“They can still sting for quite some time on the beach if the cells in the tentacles are still active, which can affect guests walking [barefoot],” noted Wiesbauer, who coauthored a first aid guide together with Dr Jens Lindner and Dr Reinhard Kilinger to the country’s toxic marine life after she was stung by a purple jellyfish while swimming, and was asked by an island doctor why she had eaten one.

Despite its appearance the Portuguese Man-o-War was not really a jellyfish, she explained, and that the usual treatment for jellyfish stings – vinegar, urine or alcohol – could discharge more of the toxic nematocysts in the sting.

Hot water was the recommended treatment for protein-based toxins, such as those from the Portugese Man-o-War or stonefish, she said.

“Clinics should have supplies of anti-histamine because the itching from a sting can be extreme. Applying ice for a few minutes can stop it from spoiling a holiday,” she added.

“Hotels have a duty to inform tourists when there is an outbreak, as someone stung may sue the hotel. It’s also important for snorkelers to understand the risk, and protect themselves with long sleeves – even thin cover is effective, although obviously this does not cover the face.”

Marine Biologist at Kuramathi Resort and Spa in Rasdhoo Atoll, Laura Riavitz, said the outbreak at the resort was worse than last year, “when there was a day when you wouldn’t even stick your toe in the water.”

“We are informing people on welcome and have put out notices at the main reception and the dive school, being careful not to panic people and asking them to wear rash vests,” she said.

Riavitz was herself stung by one last year: “It began very painfully, like a burning sensation on the skin. Sometimes you can’t see anything and don’t know what it is. The most important thing is not to scratch it, otherwise the sting can be carried to other parts of the body, such as the face,” she said.

The Portuguese Man-o-War did not move under its own power, and instead drifted with the currents using a gas bladder and with its tentacles stretching out behind it, she explained.

The creature was normally eaten by predators such as sea turtles, she noted, “although at the moment there are not enough predators to keep the numbers down.”

Any sightings of the Portuguese Man-o-War or reports on the success or failure of treatment can be reported to [email protected]


22 thoughts on “Marine biologists report outbreak of Portuguese Man-o-War”

  1. Allah’s punishment for; unpatriotic resort owners who black-market the mighty United States dollars.

  2. I have to comment on a few of the statements above.

    1) The PMOW is native to the Maldives -not a reef organism, but a pelagic one. WIth currents, though, it might get drifted on to the reefs/beaches.

    2) The hot-water method is used for protein-based toxins, such as the one of various Scorpionfishes (incl. Stonefish, Lionfish, Scorpionfish).
    What I said is that the hot-water method is not well known for PMOW, which is a Siphonophore, but I heard that it has recently been applied successfully in one of the resorts after someone was stung by a Portuguese Man-of-war.

    3) Don't apply ice for a few days!!
    Apply ice locally for a few minutes if the itching is too bad and if you can't get anti-histamines from a doctor.

    4) So far, we are not talking about an "outbreak" yet. However, we have to keep an eye on them; is it just a "normal" seasonal occurrence? Or could the reason why they multiply be overfished predators, or eutrophication (too much food for them in the sea)?

  3. THERE IS NO REASON TO PANIC (at least at this point)!

    The spook is usually over after a couple of days, and resorts can commence their business as usual & guests can enjoy their holidays in the Maldives.

    This article should create awareness and might animate one or the other reader to google this spectacular organism with the beautiful name 'Physalia physalis' and learn more about it.

    This is not an attack on resorts or any other island, but an accidental dispersal of a large planctonic organism that is being drifted by wind & currents.

    Should it turn out as a 'larger-than-normal' occurence this year and become an environmental hazard, we have to look for reasons in OUR behaviour, because it's US who impact the environment (eutrophication, overfishing of predators etc.).

  4. Mrs.Verena, my question to you is, can we extract the toxin of this jellyfish, and use it as some sort of weapon in the form of a syringe?

  5. this seems like a scare tactic - I question Minivan's intentions, when you write this as a main headline.

  6. I was caught in a current with thousands of juvenile bell shaped jellyfishes few weeks back in RAA Atoll.

    Are these jellyfishes migrating (vertically) to the surface? If so why?

  7. been a diving instructor in maldives .... i have observed these before ... this year how ever its more than usual ... but before the appearance of this i have also noticed a lot more jellyfish and during night dives lots of concentration of minuscule creatures .... how ever in the ari atoll the blue stingers seems to be getting less ... i have observed in the past three days very few ..... but sometimes they also return ... interesting facts of life

    hassan ahmed please be more constructive in your comments .... when someone takes a dump on the side of the street it cannot be considered as gods retribution ... ...

  8. The Balrog,
    Yes it would be possible to extract the venom of this species or any other jellyfish and use it i.v. In fact, it's being done regularly in laboratories to test the venom of various stingers on mammals, particularly on rats, mice and rabbits.

    David Jones,
    Yes, these are "Blue Bottles". Just another English name for the same thing.

    Maldivian Cucumber,
    Yes, plankton generally travels both horizontally, and vertically. It depends on the group of animals that travel vertically, and there are many reasons for it. Why you got into a swarm of bell-shaped jellyfish, I can only guess. If they were really small, they might have just been released after their sedentary life stage (as a polyp, attached to a substrate) and get drifted away with the currents?

    Thank you for the info from Ari Atoll. It would be good if resorts kept a record on how many PMOW (and other creatures) are being washed onto the beaches.

  9. Thank God it's the jellyfish version of the Portuguese that attacked us this time to scare the tourists. Evil thinking little fellows... right to the heart of the economy.

  10. minivan,
    Dont try to scare away our tourists. I am someone who has been working at maldivian resorts for the last 12 years n have seen this phenomenon many times. No one has been badly stung n there has been no such fear of these creatures. How come u write such articles that potentially scare away our tourists???

  11. I find it disturbing that information from what is closest to a scientific forum is being used by Minivan in a way that can tarnish the image of the people reporting there. I know that media is always keen to make "sensational" news out of nothing but when naming places does not bring anything to the information I really don't see the point of naming the people reporting except destroying the information sharing effort among scientists. It is quite clear that many places just did not report the sightings of the PMOWs, and that the picture given by reading the posts on the subject is very incomplete. I would have thought that JJ Robinson would know better...When one knows the closeness he has with some hotel chains, his partiality can really be questioned and together with it the scientific reporting coming from these particular hotels...Negative marketing was certainly not the purpose of the group and this distortion by Minivan is completely unacceptable.

  12. [email protected] oh yah buddy just a joke, have you not seem or read how our honorable parliamentarians debating in the Majlis floor; even when they debating on taxation bills they link taxation with Allah or god. You have to understand that Maldives is in medieval age for us Allah is very important.

  13. [email protected] oh yah buddy just a joke, have you not seem or read how our honorable parliamentarians debating in the Majlis floor; even when they are debating on taxation bills they link taxation with Allah or god. You have to understand that Maldives is in medieval age for us Allah is very important.

  14. Minivan these days look more like a propaganda against Maldives. This article looks like a 'scarecrow' to drive away the tourists in the country. A few bitter expats, some Maldivians; it’s a real shame that you all work and earn here and still create mountains out of molehills despite knowing that tourism is our main income.
    There are always two sides to anything, and being journalists you have a commitment to adhere to these basic ethics; don’t be biased. Else, don't call yourselves journalists.
    We all who go to the sea know that Portuguese men o’ wars are out there in lots these days, but rather than sensationalizing it as a headline news, you could have brought out the precautionary measures. As a reader, one would appreciate it more.

    PS: Verena Wiesbauer Ali, I appreciate your valuable info

  15. I have to agree with many of the comments here.

    The article might give an impression that the "outbreak" has affected only some resorts. In fact, many more islands (local and resorts) were affected, and in most, there is absolutely no problem anymore - tourists simply had to be a bit more cautious for some days and can enjoy the beach & sea just like before.

    It's like mentioning by name, let's say five out of ten restaurants that had to close down after the FDA inspection, while not mentioning the remaining five.
    Ergo: If not the complete list of islands (local and resorts, after an extensive research) that reported sightings of PMoW is published, then none of them should be mentioned by name.
    Just my humble opinion!

  16. Jelly jelly where have you been, i have longed to see you , i would like to see you multiply as the sand in the desert...multiply 10000000000 fold in a day........... we will have a coexistance

  17. To everyone whining about how minivannews is 'scaring off tourists', I really believe you're being naive/stupid/both.

    Covering up problems and pretending they don't exist may be a staple of Maldivian life, but when a tourist who gets stung by those suckers sue us for ONE BILLION DOLLARS, it won't be very funny.

    Grow up!. 😀

  18. Ha-ha-ha.100 000 thousand people pumping own shit daily into environment surrounding them.Lucky there is not Aliens grown.Idiot strategy will live desert.
    Maldivians just start sailing as you did before.Good health,nice work for yourself,nice people.Forgot government and rich bloodsuckers whether local made, whether those assholes who visiting our country.They wont help.They just suck your resources,and treat You as an asshole.In our Country now there is no Love,neither for own people,neither for nature,neither for the Planet.Total degradation.
    Be Maldivian,do what You burn in.
    Concept and starting points are here.
    You can start it anywhere.Let's kick the System.We can help You and You can help YourSelf.


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